Review: Crimsonland (Sony PlayStation Vita)

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Crimsonland
Publisher: 10tons
Developer: 10tons
Genre: Shooter
Release Date; 08/19/2014

10tons has made a habit of releasing everything they’ve ever made onto Sony platforms in recent months. Crimsonland is actually their first game, released about ten years ago for PC. However, the great thing about twin stick shooters is that they hold up incredibly well. After all, all you do is move and shoot. Tack on some leaderboards and a few extra modes, and you’ve got a pretty decent game already. The Vita is always in need of such content, so this game is especially welcome.

Crimsonland doesn’t bother to give you any context. You’re a guy with a gun, there’s a bunch of monsters coming to kill you, and you’ve got to hold on for as long as possible. I think a story would just needlessly drag such a game down.

2014-08-22-210950What the game does offer is a couple of different modes to play. First up is the campaign. The campaign is a series of sixty missions where you start off with a pistol and are required to make it through a horde of enemies. Most of the levels run about the same, but there are unique levels that task you with taking on powerful enemies and/or wave combinations. There are three difficulty modes to try out that unlock as you go through them. On top of that, clearing campaign missions unlocks weapons and perks for the survival mode.

As for the survival mode, it’s actually a series of different modes that offer variants of play and each have their own scoreboard. The setup is simple: you start the level with a pistol and try to last as long as possible. Killing enemies doesn’t merely boost your score though. It also levels you up, with each level giving you a different perk that affects the game. The other survival mode tasks you with getting as far as you can with just an assault rifle, going without a weapon at all, or using a random assortment of weapons that can’t be reloaded. There’s also a sped up version of the basic survival, which is pretty crazy in its own right.

Beyond that, you can check out the leaderboards to see where you rank, as well as keep track of your various stats. It doesn’t sound like much, but it offers enough variety to keep you playing long after you’ve managed to burn your way through the main campaign.

2014-08-22-211029Don’t expect too much from the game in terms of visuals. Your guy is barely recognizable as a human, and his animations are few and far between. The enemies pretty much just shuffle forward and the effects are simple light shows. The maps you fight on are flat and lifeless. The good news is that each time you hit an enemy, their blood splatters on the map. The blood and body parts stack up until you’re fighting on a Jackson Pollack painting. It’s a nifty effect that makes up for a lot.

If generic rock music and tinny effects are your thing, consider yourself in for a treat. This game sounds like something you could find on the GBA rather than a Vita. You probably won’t notice it all that much during the heat of battle, but the sound can get grating during those brief moments where you aren’t spraying and praying. It’s not impressive, and you might be tempted to just play with the sound off.

Crimsonland is a twin stick shooter. This means you move with one stick, and aim with the other. In some games, the aiming stick also fires your weapons. That’s not the case here. You either tap or hold down the right shoulder button to fire your equipped weapons. You can also tap the cross button in order to reload. This allows you to fire more focused shots. As a contrary control scheme, you can tap the screen in order to fire a shot exactly where you tapped. While this could be a bit more accurate, it’s also harder because your finger is blocking part of the screen. In a game where dozens of enemies are coming at you at once, you can’t really afford to lose sight of what’s going on.

2014-08-22-211509Each level starts you off with a weapon. It’s almost always a pistol, though a few missions give you another specific gun. Enemies will start flooding the field and racing towards you. Each time you kill an enemy, you have a chance to get a power-up. These power-ups include new weapons, restorative items, damage boosts, and special attacks. The key to the game is using these power-ups correctly. You have to figure out when it’s safe to go for the fire damage and when it’s simply more important to back away. This creates a fun risk/reward system that is quite addicting. Grabbing a freezing power-up or a nuke can clear the board. You just have to make sure you can get to it without dying.

When it comes to enemy types, the game doesn’t really mix things up that much. Thematically, you have reptiles, spiders, beetles, zombies, mutants, and more. Realistically, most of these function pretty much the same. They just run towards you and try to run you over. A few enemies can shoot, others can spawn smaller enemies, and one nasty bastard even has a shield to protect him from damage. It’s not often you’ll have to prioritize one particular enemy over the other. The key exceptions are the nest that spawn enemies until they’re destroyed.

2014-08-22-211716Let’s talk for a bit about the perk system. During survival mode, you’ll earn a perk each time you level up. What happens is the game pauses, and you’re given a choice between four different perks. These perks come in all shapes and sizes, and have a number of interesting effects on the game. Simple perks boost your damage, give you health, and things like that. An example of a more complicated perk is Highlander. This perk makes you immune to damage from enemy attacks. However, each time you’re hit, you have a five percent chance of dying outright. This illustrates the games risk/reward system perfectly.

Even if you just play through the campaign, you’ll still get a few hours out of the game. However, the survival mode is downright addicting, and will likely entice you to play for hours at a time. The online leaderboards are a further incentive to keep going, as is the random nature of what perks show up. This ends up making the game a pretty good bang for your buck.

Short Attention Span Summary

diehardjack1-150x150Crimsonland isn’t going to set the gaming world on fire. However, the solid gameplay combined with the addictive game modes makes this something that will definitely satisfy your trigger finger. I killed thousands of enemies per hour, which has to be some sort of record. If you like twin stick shooters, this game is right up your alley. It’s not the best example of the genre, but it is still a good one.

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